I am at JFK waiting to leave on El Al for Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.  Eighteen U S bishops are embarking on a pilgrimage of prayer for peace, visiting Israel and the West Bank. The Israeli consulate in New York has been a great help to me. Ambassador Ahaonri and his staff have worked with us in setting up meetings with Israeli officials. I want to thank them for their help and the friendly spirit which I encountered with our Israeli and American Jewish friends.

Our pilgrimage is a prayer. As we visit shrines that recall the life of our Lord we will have the opportunity to deepen the bonds between the Church in our country and our brothers and sisters in Israel and Palestine. We also have planned encounters with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders as well as authorities in Jerusalem and in Ramallah.

I look forward to seeing some old friends including Rabbi David Rosen and my favorite Rabbi, Fabian Schonfeld who is visiting his daughter and her family in Jerusalem At the outset I thank all of you who have promised me your prayers. We bishops want only to be witnesses to peace, reconciliation and deepening of the bonds of mutual respect and friendship. All of you will be in my prayers daily as we offer our simple but important witness that goodness and mutual respect will overcome violence and hatred. Please pray for us.

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